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Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English, 16-05-26

Athens News Agency: Daily News Bulletin in English Directory - Previous Article - Next Article

From: The Athens News Agency at <http://www.ana.gr/>

Thursday, 26 May 2016 Issue No: 5174

CONTENTS

  • [01] Greece coming out of a double crisis unscathed, PM Tsipras tells Commissioner Avramopoulos
  • [02] PM Tsipras receives Cyprus President Anastasiades
  • [03] Cyprus issue, energy, regional developments dominate Tsipras-Anastasiades' meeting
  • [04] Greece and Cyprus coordinated on the Cyprus issue, President Pavlopoulos says
  • [05] Tsipras discusses refugee crisis in meeting with European Council SecGen
  • [06] Eurogroup concludes meeting, decides on disbursement of 10.3 bln euros in installments
  • [07] Eurogroup reaches breakthrough in Greek deal, says European Commission
  • [08] Eurogroup agreement marks "the beginning of Greece's exit from recession", FinMin Tsakalotos says after meeting in Brussels
  • [09] Optimism in Brussels over Eurogroup outcome on Greece
  • [10] Loan tranches to Greece will last until 2nd review starts at end-October, Eurozone sources say
  • [11] Eurogroup to disburse 10.3 bln euros in two installments; first in June, say gov't sources
  • [12] Eurogroup outcome 'ends vicious cycle of uncertainty and recession,' Gerovasili says
  • [13] Eurogroup outcome a 'humiliating capitulation' without 'perspective of recovery' for Greece, ND says
  • [14] EU, IMF 'emphasised wrong reforms' in Greece, say Potami's Theodorakis, Verhofstadt
  • [15] Eurogroup outcome proves that the anti-popular measures will not end, KKE says
  • [16] Parliament's Budget Office says Eurogroup decision to effect economy positively
  • [17] Greek debt is unsustainable, IMF's Thomsen says
  • [18] FM Kotzias: Greece will not allow Thrace's minority to be used as a tool in foreign policy
  • [19] Defence minister says 'crimes were committed' against Greece during five years of crisis
  • [20] President Pavlopoulos receives Sec Gen of Council of Europe Jangland
  • [21] New Democracy lashes out at government on the Eurogroup outcome
  • [22] Distribution of refugees in various regions to be completed by September, says minister
  • [23] Idomeni railway track cleared of migrants; inspection to restore line's operation on Thursday, Kyritsis says
  • [24] 'Europe playing Russian roulette with Greece' on refugee crisis, ESI Chairman Gerald Knaus says
  • [25] SYRIZA MP Kyritsis takes political oath
  • [26] 53,875 identified refugees and migrants in Greece on Wednesday
  • [27] Disbursement of 3.5-bln-euro loan installment will boost liquidity in real economy
  • [28] Fitch: Eurogroup deal on Greece eases liquidity strain, but little debt relief offered
  • [29] No privatisations of energy companies planned, say energy ministry sources
  • [30] Piraeus Bank takes over TAP payments in Greece
  • [31] Piraeus Bank says pre-tax and provision earnings up 9.0 pct in Q1
  • [32] Greek bond yields significantly down on Wednesday
  • [33] Greek stocks end flat
  • [34] Greek bond market closing report
  • [35] ADEX closing report
  • [36] Chios Mastic Museum and Silversmithing Museum to open in 2016
  • [37] Trireme Olympias accessible to public from Friday to Sunday
  • [38] Moderate quake jolts Crete; no injuries or damages reported
  • [39] Syrian, Afghan refugees clash in Oreokastro accomodation center, three injured
  • [40] Empty suburban railway wagon derails near airport; minor delays in services
  • [41] Mostly fair on Thursday
  • [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance Politics

  • [01] Greece coming out of a double crisis unscathed, PM Tsipras tells Commissioner Avramopoulos

    Greece is coming out of a double crisis unscathed and begins efforts to help the weakest members of society, Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said on Wednesday in a meeting with EU's migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopulos in Athens.

    "Through the core of two simultaneous crises, the economic and the refugee crisis, which was unprecedented for our country, we come out unscathed, standing on our feet and now the long and difficult fight begins to heal the wounds that our weakest fellow citizens have endured," Tsipras said.

    Commenting on the Eurogroup meeting, he said Greece waited four years to have a decision that will introduce a specific road map and commitments for debt relief. "It proves that the notion of solidarity on the side of our partners is a feasible notion and not a wish," he told the Commissioner.

    "The most important aspect is that stability is fully restored and all the debate on whether Greece can remain in the strong core of Europe ends," he added.

    Discussing the ongoing evacuation of Idomeni's refugee camp, Tsipras said it is being done without any violence and the railway line is also cleared. He said Idomeni was "a wound in the management of the refugee crisis which admittedly is a successful management, largely due to the big success of the agreement between the EU and Turkey."

    On his side, Avramopoulos said that what is taking place in Idomeni offers a strong message to Europe that "with humanity and sensitivity, these people can enjoy hospitality and support, erasing a picture that, as was said in the past, was a disgrace for Europe, for the civilized world."

    [02] PM Tsipras receives Cyprus President Anastasiades

    "I welcome you at a crucial and interesting period for our region, for Europe, for Greece and Cyprus, especially lately that they are a pillar of stability in a widely troubled region," Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras said in a brief dialogue with Cypriot President Nicos Anastasiades, at Maximos Mansion.

    "Our close cooperation and the promotion of initiatives of tripartite cooperation have turned Greece and Cyprus into an essential pillar of economic cooperation, peace and stability and I think that this role give us an advantage to see better conditions in the effort to solve the Cyprus problem always according to the rules of the international law," the prime minister said, however, noting that "this is a road with ups and downs."

    "I am pleased that we are able to follow a policy with cautiousness as well as determination. I think that we will succeed to focus on those critical goals, because a solution must, above all, be a fair solution," Tsipras underlined.

    On his part, Anastasiades praised Greece as it closes a long chapter of uncertainty and difficulties and underlined that if the government continues with the same determination, then the days of hope are ahead. He added that during his meeting with Tsipras he will have the opportunity to discuss the role Greece and Cyprus can play as partners.

    [03] Cyprus issue, energy, regional developments dominate Tsipras-Anastasiades' meeting

    The intercommunal talks for a solution to the Cyprus issue, energy issues, regional developments and joint cooperation of Greece and Cyprus with third countries dominated a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades on Wednesday, at Maximos Mansion.

    During the meeting Tsipras and Anastasiades also discussed the refugees issue, aspects of EU-Turkey relations as well as the contacts of the two leaders during the United Nations World Humanitarian Summit in Istanbul.

    [04] Greece and Cyprus coordinated on the Cyprus issue, President Pavlopoulos says

    "Greece and Cyprus, Cyprus and Greece are perfectly coordinated in terms of resolving the Cyprus issue", Greek President Prokopis Pavlopoulos on Wednesday said during his meeting with Cyprus President Nicos Anastasiades at the Presidential Mansion.

    A solution to the Cyprus issue can only exist on the basis of the decisions of the United Nations' institutions and particularly the Security Council as well as on the basis of the EU acquis. "With a sovereign Cyprus, without any discount. This rules out occupation troops or guarantors. And we make that clear in every direction," Pavlopoulos said.

    Anastasiades said that his visit in Athens is part of the programme on the exchange of views regarding the course of the negotiations and the next moves. He also expressed the hope "for a sincere dialogue which will allow us to transform the existing differences in convergence and to answer two major questions that remain unanswered, the question of territorial adjustments and the issue of guarantees, where -especially as regards the latter - there are some inviolable principles that need to be respected". He concluded: "Modern states with guarantees and guarantors can't exist."

    [05] Tsipras discusses refugee crisis in meeting with European Council SecGen

    The refugee issue and the implementation of the EU-Turkey deal were the topics discussed in a meeting between Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbj?rn Jagland, in Athens on Wednesday.

    On his side, Tsipras described the relations between Greece and the European Council as "historic and important", while Jagland thanked Greece on its approach towards the refugee crisis and its respect for human rights.

    "It's true what you said that the Council of Europe has always been there and that Greece has been at the Council of Europe from the beginning," the Norwegian official said, adding that the difficulties facing Greece and Europe can be resolved only by respecting the standards of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    Jagland later posted on Twitter a statement confirming Tsipras' participation in the upcoming meeting of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)on June 22: "Had a very constructive meeting with Prime Minister Tsipras, he confirms he will come to Strasbourg on 22/6."

    [06] Eurogroup concludes meeting, decides on disbursement of 10.3 bln euros in installments

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni, Ch. Vassilaki)

    The Eurogroup discussion on Greece's program review and debt issue concluded with an agreement in principle early on Wednesday morning, according to eurozone officials.

    Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem announced the next loan installment to Greece would total 10.3 billion euros and be disbursed in sub-tranches. He also said that in terms of the debt there was agreement on both short- and long-term issues, as well as on a long-term mechanism.

    Dijsselbloem also said that the International Monetary Fund had expressed its intention to participate in the Greek program before the end of the year. This would be preceded by two steps, a new analysis of the debt's viability and the assessment of the measures that were decided today on the debt, he added.

    [07] Eurogroup reaches breakthrough in Greek deal, says European Commission

    The Eurogroup agreement on Greece represents "a breakthrough in several ways" by opening the way for the next loan installments and offering gradual measures on debt relief, the European Commission said in a press release on Wednesday.

    "It will [also] serve to create the conditions for the return of confidence, which is essential for a lasting economic recovery in Greece," the Commission said, adding that the IMF also confirmed its intention to recommend to its Executive Board to approve a financial arrangement before the end of the year.

    The details of the agreement are set out in a statement and a disbursement of a first installment will be made in June (7.5 bln euros), subject to the full implementation of the outstanding prior actions and to the completion of national procedures, it added.

    "A supplemental Memorandum of Understanding, which is due to be endorsed by the ESM Board shortly, will complement the framework for the programme implementation."

    [08] Eurogroup agreement marks "the beginning of Greece's exit from recession", FinMin Tsakalotos says after meeting in Brussels

    Today's Eurogroup agreement will mark the beginning of Greece's exit from the foul cycle of economic recession, Finance Minister Euclid Tsakalotos said early on Wednesday in Brussels, following the conclusion of the Eurogroup meeting.

    "We reached an agreement after 11 hours of negotiations," he said, both for the completion of Greece's program review and for the disbursement of the related loan installment. "We hoped for an installment of 9 to 11 billion euros - the final amount is 10,3 billion euros," he added, noting that part of the loan was earmarked to repay outstanding debts of the state.

    In terms of the debt agreement, Tsakalotos noted that some measures would be implemented in the short term following the completion of the review and the disbursement of the installment, up to the end of the program. He added there is an agreement for measures on a mid-term level which will be detailed further in 2018 (they are now known in outline only) and an agrement to implement long-term measures as well.

    "It is an important point in time for Greece, following a long time," the minister said. Last summer's agreement called for talks on the debt after the completion of the program review, he said, while there is a "comprehensive package" now.

    "There is ground now to allow us to be optimistic that this is the beginning of the reversal of the foul cycle in which Greece has fallen, with recession and measures, and that the country will enter a virtuous cycle with the return of investors," he said.

    [09] Optimism in Brussels over Eurogroup outcome on Greece

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ C. Vasilakis)

    European Union finance ministers were making upbeat comments about the results of the Eurogroup on Wednesday, as they arrived for a session of the ECOFIN Council.

    Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem said the negotiations had been "difficult" but that the meeting had finally arrived at "an agreement that gives a perspective for Greece, bring the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on board and strengthens confidence between us and therefore the confidence in the Eurozone."

    Regarding the IMF's participation in the programme, he admitted that this was not 100 pct certain, however. "They have their own rules and procedures to follow, so later this year they will make a new TSA, they will assess the debt measures that we have put on the table and then they will come to their opinion," he said.

    European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs Pierre Moscovici called the agreement reached at the Eurogroup "positive" and "sustainable" and that the 10.3-billion-euro tranche to Greece will help in paying of the Greek state sector's overdue debts.

    [10] Loan tranches to Greece will last until 2nd review starts at end-October, Eurozone sources say

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/ M. Aroni)

    The 10.3 billion euro tranche that the Eurogroup decided to disburse to Greece will fully meet the country's financing needs until the end of October, when the second review of the Greek programme is set to start, Eurozone officials said on Wednesday.

    Describing the events behind the scenes at Tuesday's Eurogroup, the sources said that the IMF and Europeans had reached a compromise in spite of their different initial positions, while confirming that the IMF will participate. According to one EU official, this was not so much a "power play" but more that all sides moved from their initial position, with the IMF fully understanding that the Eurozone operates in a different way from the fund.

    Regarding the measures for the debt, the European sources said that there were no "immediate decisions" but this was not a surprise, since there were no debts maturing in the short term. In the medium-term, the Eurozone countries said they will examine the possibility of buying up debt to the IMF early, or the bilateral loans with Eurozone countries, using the unspent funds (approximately 20 billion euros) originally destined for the recapitalisation of the banks. This would, however, require the approval of some national parliaments.

    According to Eurozone officials, the chances that Greece can return to borrowing from the markets at reasonable interest rates at the end of the programme are much higher following the agreement at Tuesday's Eurogroup. They said that Greece's access to the markets can begin to be restored gradually, in the second half of 2017, and that the aim is to restore full market access by the end of 2018.

    The more credible Greece's economic policy, including its success in delivering primary surplus targets, the smaller the spreads on Greek bonds will be, though borrowing from the Eurozone will always be cheaper, the same sources said. The second review of the Greek programme would begin at the end of October, they added, noting that the measures that remained to be taken will not be as difficult as those required by the first review.

    [11] Eurogroup to disburse 10.3 bln euros in two installments; first in June, say gov't sources

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Aroni)

    The Eurogroup is expected to announce that Greece's next loan installment will total 10.3 billion euros and will be disbursed in two sub-tranches of 7.5 billion in June and 2.8 billion in September, government sources said on Tuesday, as a Eurogroup meeting discussing the country's program review and debt issue got underway in Brussels.

    The same sources said the Eurogroup announcement will state that Greece is expected to achieve a primary surplus of 3.5 pct of GDP in 2018 but there will be no references to following years.

    The finance ministers didn't discuss the pending issues that came up during the EuroWorking Group meeting on Monday and concern the sale of Egnatia motorway and the Hellinikon, the sources said.

    On the debt issue, talks are expected to start in a while and according to government sources, the differences between the IMF and Eurozone countries remain unchanged, the same sources said. The Eurogroup statement is expected to include a "road map" for debt settlement in three stages (short-term, medium-term, long-term). Some of the measures considered are keeping interest rates in today's low levels in the short-term and smoothening repayments for some loans. In the next stages, ministers and officials are examining buying IMF loans and returning bond profits retained by the central banks (SMPs and ANFAs).

    [12] Eurogroup outcome 'ends vicious cycle of uncertainty and recession,' Gerovasili says

    Government spokeswoman Olga Gerovasili on Wednesday welcomed the outcome of a Eurogroup meeting that decided to disburse 10.3 billion euros in loans to Greece, to be given in two instalments. Gerovasili said the decision reached by Eurozone finance ministers marked a successful conclusion of the first review of the Greek programme and an end to a "vicious cycle of uncertainty and recession," ushering in a new era of economic stability that would allow a return to borrowing from the markets.

    "From these instalments, 3.5 billion euros will be paid over the coming period into the real economy, providing valuable liquidity, Gerovasili told reporters.

    "The agreement does not only concern the review and the structural reforms but also the debt," she pointed out, noting that a clear and binding road map for debt relief, outlining specific goals and interventions in the short-term, medium-term and long-term, now existed for the first time.

    "The financing of the economy has been secured for a very long time on very favourable terms, proving wrong all those that invested in the country's failure for petty political gain," she commented, predicting that Greece would now enter a phase of economic stability that will boost the confidence of investors and allow a return to growth.

    At the same time, she added, the government had proved that its primary concern was to share the burden fairly among Greek citizens and promised that this same "progressive, social slant" will continue during the times of economic recovery.

    "The days when the many were burdened so that the few could enjoy is gone for good," she said.

    [13] Eurogroup outcome a 'humiliating capitulation' without 'perspective of recovery' for Greece, ND says

    The agreement reached by Eurozone finance ministers on Greece left the country "without a perspective of recovery" for which the government was responsible, main opposition New Democracy spokesman George Koumoutsakos commented on Wednesday.

    "The Greeks are now paying for an expensive and uncertain promise for the future. An exit from the crisis is not in sight," he said.

    According to Koumoutsakos, the government's delays had resulted in a "humiliating capitulation" without a full and final conclusion of the first review, the disbursement of loan tranches that were half those originally planned and no solution on the issue of debt sustainability.

    He also criticised the new privatisation fund, saying the "creditors never dared to ask this of us and will not do so in the future, when we become a government, because when the Tsipras-Kammenos government ends, we will restore our national dignity."

    [14] EU, IMF 'emphasised wrong reforms' in Greece, say Potami's Theodorakis, Verhofstadt

    The focus of reform efforts in Greece was mistaken and failed to address the root cause of the country's problems, opposition Potami party leader Stavros Theodorakis and the head of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe group in the European Parliament, Guy Verhofstadt, said on Wednesday in Brussels.

    In a joint press conference with MEPs entitled "The Truth About Greece," they noted that the country remained stuck in recession, despite six years of memorandums and harsh austerity, as a result of placing emphasis on the wrong reforms.

    "The country's biggest problem at this moment is a lack of investment, because we have a great plunge in values, a great fall in wages, but investments in Greece are on average half that of other European countries. In Greece, they are only 10 pct of GDP when the average in Europe is 20 pct of GDP," said Theodorakis, who urged Europeans to provide a solution to the issue of the country's debt.

    He also pointed out that Greece's clientelist party-dominated state remained all-powerful and continued to create obstacles in many areas of life in Greece, calling for a "new deal" for the Greek state.

    According to Verhofstadt, the ALDE group was unconvinced by the Eurogroup's claim that the situation in Greece was under control and he criticised the way the programmes had focused on fiscal rather than structural aspects.

    "The EU ad IMF focused on the fiscal debt, the public debt, the lack of a primary surplus; they focused on the consequences when they should have focused on the causes, which are Greece's bad government, its ineffective administration, the clientelist state and weak institutions - sometimes even nonexistent institutions - as well as lack of competitiveness. These are the primary causes of the crisis, which were not addressed," he said.

    [15] Eurogroup outcome proves that the anti-popular measures will not end, KKE says

    The agreement reached at the Eurogroup for concluding the first review of the Greek programme "confirms that the slippery slope has no end since every tranche disbursement is conditional on new anti-popular measures," the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) said in an announcement on Wednesday.

    By the same token, any debt relief that is not created by the people will be accompanied by new packages of measures, regardless of how the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the EU bourgois classes choose to express their confrontations or the outcome of these confrontations, the announcement said.

    "The lies of the SYRIZA-ANEL coalition will be short-lived since the laws just passed are not the last difficult measures," it said.

    [16] Parliament's Budget Office says Eurogroup decision to effect economy positively

    Eurogroup's decisions on Tuesday will have a positive effect on the Greek economy, the head of the Parliament's Budget Office said on Wednesday, during the presentation of its quarterly report for the period January-March 2016 at the parliament's budget committee.

    "The completion of the agreement sends the signal that the government has chosen the path to achieve its fiscal targets and reforms and contribute in the stabilization of the economic climate and the restoration of credibility," professor Panagiotis Liargovas said.

    The final outcome will depend on the implementation of the agreements, the effect of opposing forces that cause recession and mainly by the course of the debate on the country's debt, he added.

    [17] Greek debt is unsustainable, IMF's Thomsen says

    BRUSSELS (ANA-MPA/M. Spinthourakis)

    The president of the European Council Donald Tusk said he was satisfied with the agreement reached at the Eurogroup.

    "Strong message of stability for Greece, Europe and the global economy," Tusk said after the Eurogroup early on Wednesday.

    The IMF has welcomed the deal with the IMF European chief, Poul Thomsen, saying, "We welcome that all stakeholders recognise that Greek debt is unsustainable. We welcome that it is understood that Greece needs debt relief to make it sustainable."

    [18] FM Kotzias: Greece will not allow Thrace's minority to be used as a tool in foreign policy

    Greece will not allow the minority of THrace to become a "tool for motherlands", Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias said on Wednesday, in a book presentation about Thrace.

    "Thrace is Greek, democratic and European and Greece is a country that respects, promotes and develops the rights of minorities," he said. "Greece will not allow anybody to become a tool for motherlands, to turn the minority into a tool for foreign policy, instead of accepting its role as a bridge of friendship for the whole region," he added.

    Kotzias was referring indirectly to a tweet by Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu: "Received the delegation of Turkish Minority of Western Thrace, reiterated our strong support."

    [19] Defence minister says 'crimes were committed' against Greece during five years of crisis

    Defence Minister Panos Kammenos said on Tuesday "crimes were committed" against Greece in the last five years of economic crisis, during a visit to the island of Syros.

    "It is certain that crimes were committed against the country these past years and one of the biggest one was the violation of the Constitution," the minister said, after he signed an agreement with the municipality to utilize property of the armed forces on the island.

    He cited the reversal of the country's island policy which is enshrined in article 101 of the Constitution and requires that lawmakers take the particular circumstances of island regions into account when deciding on laws. He then added that the increase of the VAT rate for the islands is "a criminal act, an unconstitutional decision and a decision for which I'd like to tell you we fought hard inside and outside parliament."

    [20] President Pavlopoulos receives Sec Gen of Council of Europe Jangland

    President of Republic Prokopis Pavlopoulos received on Wednesday the secretary general of the Council of Europe Thorbj?rn Jagland who is currently in Greece to participate in an international congress on the management of the refugees crisis on conditions of respect to the International and European Law that is held in the city of Nafplio.

    Pavlopoulos noted that Jangland's presence and speech sent a resounding message to all the members of the Council of Europe on the management of the refugees crisis with humanism and according to the International Law and particularly according to the European Treaty of the Human Rights. A special reference was made to those members of the Council that face the refugees issue with phoebic syndroms that sometimes touch the limits of racism.

    On his part, Jangland said that his presence indicates the solidarity to Greece in relations with the refugees issue and noted that the solidarity should not be on at political but also on financial level.

    He supported the complete implementatioin of EU-Turkey agreement adding that in these difficult times all EU bodies and institutions should cooperate and stressed that "if theses bodies and institutions are working only in the good days then the crisis is much deeper that what we think".

    [21] New Democracy lashes out at government on the Eurogroup outcome

    Main opposition New Democracy in a statement on Wednesday harshly criticised the outcome of the Eurogroup and accused the government of the delays in the negotiations.

    "The government has delayed for seven months the conclusion of the program review, imposed harsh measures on the Greeks, increased the country's obligations, such as the privatisation fund, and imposed 'permanently' the contingency mechanism," it said.

    "It conceded everything and took nothing back. Why is that? Because it is totally incredible," the statement added.

    [22] Distribution of refugees in various regions to be completed by September, says minister

    The government will complete the distribution of refugees and migrants throughout Greece by September, Alternate Minister for Migration Policy Yiannis Mouzalas said in a meeting with the Prefect of Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas at the ministry on Wednesday.

    According to the ministry plan, many of the existing hospitality centers in Macedonia will be closed down and replaced by new facilities in regions around the country where refugees will be transferred. "Many of them will also eventually be relocated to Europe and us, as a country will accept our share of refugees," he said.

    Mouzalas also told journalists that Tzitzikostas complained that Macedonia and Thessaloniki have been burdened disproportionally by the refugee flows. "He's absolutely right. As you know, the problem in Idomeni was created in 20 days. The population we received in 20 days was like Germany receiving 580,000 people in 20 days. We had to build temporary facilities, knowing that some of them were not good," he said.

    On his side, Tzitzikostas asked Mouzalas to make sure that "Idomeni is not transferred to Thessaloniki". "Central Macedonia can no longer support 70 pct of the refugee and migration wave," the prefect said.

    Commenting on the ongoing evacuation of Idomeni, Mouzalas and Tzitzikostas said they were pleased with the development, with the latter noting that it should have taken place sooner.

    [23] Idomeni railway track cleared of migrants; inspection to restore line's operation on Thursday, Kyritsis says

    The railway track at Idomeni has been cleared of squatting migrants and refugees and an inspection by the Greek railway services operator TRAINOSE has been scheduled for Thursday to restore its operation, the migration crisis coordinating committee representative Georgios Kyritsis said on Wednesday in a post on his Twitter account.

    "Idomeni: the removal from railway line is complete. An inspection by TRAINOSE tomorrow to restore its operation," Kyritsis said.

    [24] 'Europe playing Russian roulette with Greece' on refugee crisis, ESI Chairman Gerald Knaus says

    The European Union was failing to grasp that the refugee issue is a European problem, the head of the the European Stability Initiative (ESI) - a think-tank credited with designing the EU-Turkey deal of March 20 - said in a press conference held in Athens on Wednesday. In scathing criticism of the EU's stance, ESI founding chairman Gerald Knaus accused Europe of "hiding behind Greece" and "playing Russian roulette" with Greece as the potential victim.

    Knaus, who was in Athens as the guest of the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation and the Netherlands Embassy, defended the March 20 deal with Turkey as the "best that could be done" to defend human rights.

    "People aren't drowning, they don't have to pay traffickers, they are not trapped in Greece for years," he pointed out. He criticised Greek delays in examining asylum applications, however, and the lack of any management mechanism, as well as the EU's failure to implement the resettlement system and take responsibility for implementing the agreement with Turkey.

    "This is an extremely dangerous moment when all that's been achieved can fail. And if the agreement fails, things will be much worse than they were the previous year," he said. He pointed out that the services for examining asylum applications on the Greek islands were very understaffed, even with the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) reinforcements, and that the number of interviews conducted each day was woefully inadequate when compared with the thousands of asylum seekers.

    "If this is a mission that must succeed, then we are playing Russian roulette and taking risks. Turkey has agreed to take back all the migrants whose applications are rejected by Greece yet no case has reached conclusion in the last two months, he added.

    [25] SYRIZA MP Kyritsis takes political oath

    SYRIZA deputy George Kyritsis took a political oath on Wednesday in the Greek Parliament.

    Kyritsis will replace deputy Vassiliki Katrivanou who resigned on Sunday's voting of the government's omnibus bill.

    [26] 53,875 identified refugees and migrants in Greece on Wednesday

    53,875 identified refugees and migrants were on the Greek territory on Wednesday while no new arrivals have been recorded in the last 24 hours.

    According to the Refugee Crisis Management Coordination Body's figures, 28,485 of the refugees are in northern Greece (6,168 at Idomeni), 14,480 are hosted in the region of Attica, 8,476 on the Greek islands and 2,443 are hosted in different areas in central and southern Greece.

    Financial News

    [27] Disbursement of 3.5-bln-euro loan installment will boost liquidity in real economy

    Disbursement of a 10.3 billion euros loan installment to Greece will be made in two sub-tranches, one 7.5 billion euros and another 2.8 billion euros. The first sub-tranche will be disbursed in June to cover the country's debt obligations to European Central Bank (in July) and to the International Monetary Fund and to begin repayment of the state's overdue debt to the private sector. Disbursement of the first sub-tranche will be made after completion of the review of the programme, which includes a last inspection of a recent law voted in the Parliament and confirmation of full implementation of prior actions and in particular corrections in a legislation to open the market of loan sales (including loans with state guarantee), a pension reform (retrospective return of EKAS a supplementary pension benefit) and completion of prior actions in privatizations (ratification of a contract for Helliniko, Egnatia Road). Disbursement of the first sub-tranche will have to be approved by national parliaments of Eurozone member-states.

    A second sub-tranche of 2.8 billion euros will be available from September, according to the repayment of state overdue debt to the private sector.

    Installments on a further debt servicing will be related with privatization landmarks, including a new Privatization Fund, corporate governance in Greek banks (possible change in management), a new fully independent Revenue Authority and interventions in the energy market. Assessment of prior actions will be made by the institutions and ratification by the Euro Working Group and the ESM.

    Finance ministry officials said that around 700 million euros per month until October will be earmarked for repayment of state overdue debt to the private sector, boosting liquidity in the market with 3.5 billion euros.

    A Eurogroup meeting toned down in wording on primary surplus targets by noting that fiscal commitments will be reviewed in 2018.

    Finance ministry officials said that an agreement to safeguard debt sustainability is adjusted to the characteristics of the Greek economy and ensured, for a long period of time, the funding of the economy under very favorable terms. They also noted that agreed interventions for debt paved the way for Greece's exit in capital markets through boosting investment confidence and lifting uncertainties in the economy.

    According to the same sources, it was agreed that Greece will not pay more than 15 pct of GDP on debt servicing in the medium-term, raising this ceiling to 20 pct of GDP. This ceiling will include payment of Treasury bills and it is low compared with all comparative indexes for countries with similar economic characteristics. It is also fundamentally reducing the country's funding needs for the coming years, directly resolving the debt issue. These measures (short-, medium- and long-term) for a debt restructuring offered a clear road map stabilizing liquidity conditions in the economy, while a sum of 20 billion euros saved from a bank recapitalization scheme were "available" for debt repurchase actions.

    European partners have essentially committed to begin moves for a debt restructuring and to plan a "large package" for implementation after 2018, on the condition that the programme will be implemented, while the IMF agreed to recommend its participation in the Greek programme this year after the European partners completed a new debt sustainability report.

    Poul Thomsen, head of European affairs in the IMF, said that such measures will be implemented after the programme was completed fully in July 2018 and will include measures of a more efficient management of debt (Eurozone proposal) combined with a provision to create a action mechanism operating on a long-term horizon. For 2017, the Eurogroup meeting approved interventions leading to a reduction of interest payment of around 220 million euros.

    [28] Fitch: Eurogroup deal on Greece eases liquidity strain, but little debt relief offered

    Fitch Ratings agency expressed doubts about the effectiveness of the Eurogroup agreement on Greece's debt in a press release on Wednesday, saying not much was offered upfront.

    "The agreement reached between Greece and its Eurozone creditors reduces the risk of another Greek liquidity crisis this summer, and incentivises the country to complete its third bail-out programme," the ratings agency said.

    "However, with little debt relief offered upfront, the Greek government may find it progressively more difficult to continue with politically controversial measures required to meet ambitious programme commitments. Implementation risk therefore remains high," it added.

    [29] No privatisations of energy companies planned, say energy ministry sources

    The privatisation of energy companies is not the government's priority nor does such a plan exist, sources from the environment and energy ministry told ANA-MPA on Wednesday.

    The target to raise 6.2 billion euros in revenues will be achieved by selling and utilizing other state assets which are not considered of strategic importance, the sources said, responding to questions on the government's privatization program. "There's no intention to transfer the State's participation in these companies," the source added.

    [30] Piraeus Bank takes over TAP payments in Greece

    Piraeus Bank on Wednesday announced it will be the banking partner of Trans Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) in Greece, supporting the implementation of compensation payments to land owners affected by the pipeline project.

    In an announcement, the bank said its cooperation with TAP began in early 2015 when Piraeus Bank won a bidding tender for TAP's payments in Greece.

    George Georgopoulos, deputy general manager in Piraeus Bank, commenting on the agreement, said: "We are very proud to contribute in the implementation of this very significant development project in Greece".

    [31] Piraeus Bank says pre-tax and provision earnings up 9.0 pct in Q1

    An agreement reached by the Eurogroup accelerates developments to bring the banking system back onto a more permanent course of stabilisation and growth, Mihalis Sallas, chairman of Piraeus Bank Group said on Wednesday.

    Commenting on the bank's results in the first quarter of 2016, Sallas said that an expected gradual improvement in liquidity and creation of necessary conditions for an efficient management of non-performing loans, will liberate funds for healthy and productive activities and enhance the balance sheets of Greek banks.

    "Piraeus Bank, the biggest lender of Greek enterprises, will contribute in a national effort towards the growth of the Greek economy," Sallas said.

    Stavros Lekkakos, the bank's chief executive, said that the bank managed to report pre-tax and provision earnings of 263 million euros, up 9.0 pct from the same period last year, with net income rising 2.0 pct on an annual basis and operating costs falling by 3.0 pct. Loan provision expenses fell by 180 basis points, while non-performing loans with a delay of more than 90 days fell by 500 million euros in the January-March period, matching the bank's targets for 2016. Piraeus Bank reported a negative formation of new NPLs for the first time since 2008, Lekkakos said, while the CET-1 capital adequacy rate was 17.6 pct. Lekkakos noted that an earnings target set for 2016 was feasible.

    Pre-tax and provision earnings rose 9.0 pct to 263 million euros in the three-month period, net income from interest and commissions accounted for 95 pct of net operating income, up 2.0 pct on a quarterly basis. Net capital income was 478 million euros, up 3.0 pct from the fourth quarter of 2015. Net operating income rose 2.0 pct compared with the same period in 2015 to 581 million euros, while operating costs fell 3.0 pct to 318 million euros.

    The NPLs index was 39.8 pct, falling significantly for the second successive quarter (an accumulated reduction of 1.2 billion euros from September 2015). Bad loan provisions shrank to 289 million euros in the quarter from 1.384 billion in the fourth quarter of 2015.

    Deposits totaled 37.9 billion euros at the end of March, down 3.0 pct from December 2015, although a recovery was noted in April. Piraeus Bank said its dependence from the Eurosystem fell to 30.4 billion euros from 32.7 billion in December 2015. Loans pre-provisions was 66.3 billion euros, or 48.9 billion after provisions.

    Piraeus Bank Group operates a network of 981 branches, closing eight branches in the first quarter. The plan is to reduce its network to 650 branches in Greece by the end of 2017. Its workforce was 19,259, of which 15,627 in Greece. Piraeus Bank completed a voluntary exit programme, which included around 1,000 workers with an annual savings of around 45 million euros.

    [32] Greek bond yields significantly down on Wednesday

    Greek state bond yields fell significantly to more than six-month lows in the aftermath of a positive conclusion of a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels.

    The short-term benchmark bond yield fell to 6.77 pct, more than 100 points down from Tuesday, while the 10-year bond yield fell more than 30 points to 7.07 pct.

    Greek stocks also positively reacted to news from Brussels, with the composite index of the market rising 1.0 pct early in the session.

    [33] Greek stocks end flat

    Greek stocks ended flat in the Athens Stock Exchange on Wednesday with investors rushing to take profits after an early strong advance of prices. Traders said the market had already discounted a positive outcome in a Eurogroup meeting. Bank shares came under pressure while other blue chip stocks such as PPC, Titan and Athens Water scored gains.

    The composite index of the market eased 0.04 pct to end at 633.40 points, after rising as much as 651.60 points early in the day and falling by up to 1.40 pct later on. The Large Cap index eased 0.75 pct and the Mid Cap index ended 1.77 pct lower. Turnover was a strong 163.424 million euros in volume of 219,181,486.

    Ellaktor (7.91 pct), Titan (5.61 pct) and Athens Water (4.03 pct) scored the biggest percentage gains of the day among blue chip stocks, while Eurobank (4.42 pct), Piraeus Bank (3.33 pct) and Alpha Bank (3.14 pct) suffered heavy losses.

    Among market sectors, Utilities (5.64 pct), Constructions (5.64 pct) and Insurance (5.0 pct) scored big gains, while Banks (3.40 pct) and Personal Products (3.06 pct) suffered losses. National Bank and Piraeus Bank were the most heavily traded securities of the day.

    Broadly, advancers led decliners by 67 to 45 with another 12 issues unchanged. Motodynamic (29.66 pct), Evrofarma (27.37 pct) and Sfakianakis (19.86 pct) were top gainers, while Dionic (13.95 pct), Aloumil (9.87 pct) and Bitros (9.74 pct) were top losers.

    [34] Greek bond market closing report

    An agreement reached in a Eurogroup meeting in Brussels, in early morning hours on Wednesday, created positive expectations over a restructuring of the Greek debt after 2018 and boosted sentiment in the Greek capital market. Additionally, a Moody's comment that developments were credit positive for Greece and comments made by German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble that Greece will not need a fourth bailout programme created a euphoric climate in the market.

    The 10-year benchmark bond yield fell below 7.0 pct for the first time since 2014 in intraday trading. The yield ended at 7.13 pct, while the German Bund yield was 0.17 pct with the yield spread easing to 6.96 pct in the domestic electronic secondary bond market on Wednesday, from 6.97 pct on Tuesday. Turnover was a thin 4.0 million euros, all buy orders.

    In interbank markets, interest rates were mixed. The 12-month rate fell to -0.013 pct from -0.012 pct, the nine-month rate was -0.079 pct, the six-month rate rose to -0.144 pct from -0.146 pct, the three-month rate rose to -0.256 pct from -0.262 pct and the one-month rate was -0.349 pct.

    [35] ADEX closing report

    The June contract on the FTSE/ASE Large Cap index was trading at a premium of 0.60 pct in the Athens Derivatives Exchange on Wednesday. Volume on the Big Cap index totaled 8,348 contracts with 29,276 open positions in the market. Volume in futures contracts on equities totaled 120,296 contracts with investment interest focusing on National Bank's contracts (54,674), followed by Alpha Bank (17,009), Piraeus Bank (24,141), Eurobank (11,614), MIG (4,166), OTE (586), PPC (1,883), OPAP (1,149), Hellenic Exchanges (175), Viohalco (151), Mytilineos (615), Hellenic Petroleum (234), GEK (1,808), Ellaktor (1,469), Jumbo (188) and Titan (76).

    General News

    [36] Chios Mastic Museum and Silversmithing Museum to open in 2016

    The Piraeus Bank Group Cultural Foundation (PIOP) will open two new museums in Greece this year, highlighting the industrial heritage and cultural identity of the country.

    PIOP supports the preservation and showcasing of Greece's cultural heritage, with emphasis on its artisanal and industrial technology, and promotes the connection of Culture with the Environment.

    The Foundation already operates museums on Lesvos, Stymfalia, Tinos, Volos, Dimitsana, Sparta and Soufli.

    In an interview with ANA-MPA, the head of PIOP Elia Vlachou announced the operation of the Chios Mastic Museum to be launched in June and the Silversmithing Museum to be launched in Ioannina, in autumn.

    When asked how the international experience for the enhancement of the industrial heritage is used by PIOP, Vlachou replied that "what is important in industrial heritage is that it should not be seen nostalgically, but it should be used for the revival of the local economy, the society and cultural identity and therefore can inspire us for the future in an innovative and sustainable way. This is the PIOP approach and that is we want to offer with our museums."

    [37] Trireme Olympias accessible to public from Friday to Sunday

    The citizens that will attend the Sea Days 2016 organised by Piraeus municipality will have the opportunity to visit the trireme Olympias. The trireme will dock at marina Zeas in Piraeus from Friday 27 May to Monday 30 May.

    Visitors will be able to tour Olympias on Friday from 17:00 to 20:30, on Saturday from 10:00 to 14:00 and on Sunday from 17:30 to 20:30.

    [38] Moderate quake jolts Crete; no injuries or damages reported

    No damages or injuries have been reported from the moderate quake that shook the island of Crete on Wednesday.

    According to the Geodynamics Institute, the 5.5 Richter earthquake was recorded at 11:36 in the sea region 12km south-southeast of Zakros with depth 10 km.

    The tremor was felt throughout the island.

    [39] Syrian, Afghan refugees clash in Oreokastro accomodation center, three injured

    A group of Syrian refugees scuffled with a group of Afghans in the accommodation center of Fessa warehouses in Oreokastro, northern Greece, on Wednesday for unknown reasons.

    According to the police, three Afghans were lightly injured and transferred to Ippokratio hospital.

    [40] Empty suburban railway wagon derails near airport; minor delays in services

    An empty suburban railway wagon derailed near the airport on Wednesday evening, railways operator TRAINOSE said, adding that nobody was injured.

    Passengers travelling to and from Athens' airport are experiencing minor delays. TRAINOSE said it is investigating the causes of the derailment.

    Weather forecast

    [41] Mostly fair on Thursday

    Mostly fair weather and northwesterly winds are forecast for Thursday. Wind velocity will reach 6 on the Beaufort scale. Partly cloudy in the northern parts of the country with temperatures ranging from 12C-27C. Mostly fair in the western parts of the country and temperatures between 15C-27C. Scattered clouds in the eastern parts with temperatures between 14C-28C. Sunny over the Aegean islands and Crete, 17C-26C. Mostly fair in Athens, 16C-28C. Scattered clouds in Thessaloniki, 15C-27C.

    [42] The Wednesday edition of Athens' dailies at a glance

    AVGHI: Greek program review concluded; a roadmap for debt

    DIMOKRATIA: They are kidding us!

    ETHNOS: Full agreement on debt-disbursement of loan tranches

    ELEFTHEROS TYPOS: New shock for those entitled to pension benefit EKAS

    ESTIA: The 'Thatcherism' of (Prime Minister Alexis) Tsipras

    EFIMERIDA TON SYNTAKTON: Loan tranche v program review ... debt?

    KATHIMERINI: Thriller over the debt; terms on the disbursement of the loan tranche

    TA NEA: Agreement in installments

    NAFTEMPORIKI: Negotiations over an agreement-'package'

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